Ask Dr. Z
Handling Back-to-School Blues
Dear Dr. “Z”- It is back to school time and every year I go through so much stress getting my children ready for school. The mornings are insane in my house. My two children are so slow to get ready and are so disorganized. In addition, they seem to be really resistant to settling back into doing their schoolwork after a long, stress free summer. I am so overwhelmed every morning and find that it affects my whole entire day, even after I’ve dropped my kids off. Help?
End of Summer Blues
Dear “End of Summer Blues,”
Starting school after those “lazy days of summer” can be quiet tough for parents and children alike, but there are a number of things you can do to ease your transition. The two most important ways you can prepare yourself for your new school year involve: sleep schedules and routines.
During the summertime, many families are loose when it comes to bedtime. It gets darker later at night and children tend to naturally go to sleep later and wake up later in the morning. This is fine when you do not need to set an alarm clock. However, now that school has started things have to change. I would advise establishing some bedtime routines that include some quiet activities prior to sleep (i.e., reading books and listening to soft music) and an earlier bedtime, as a good night’s sleep is vital to functioning. Studies have shown that the negative effects of lack of sleep include irritability, decreased attention, deficits in short-term memory and inconsistent academic performance. The amount of sleep required for optimal functioning varies from child to child but on average, elementary school aged children typically require approximately 10 hours of sleep per night, middle-school children typically require 9 hours and high school aged children require 8 to 9 hours of sleep. Keep in mind as you attempt to alter your children’s sleep schedules that adjusting to new bedtimes takes some getting used to. Allow approximately two weeks for your children’s body clocks to regulate to this new schedule. You may also want to consider removing electronics from your child’s bedroom (i.e. TV, computers, gaming systems, cell phones), as they have been shown to contribute to a lack of sleep
Next, you must actively plan your morning routine. You will have to ask yourself a number of questions such as:
1. How much time will I need to get ready and then get the children up, dressed and fed? With this information, decide on what time will you wake up each morning. Build in an extra ten minutes to reduce morning stress.
2. Will I make lunches in the morning or the night before? I would encourage having the lunches prepared the night before to alleviate another morning stress if possible. Consider packing healthier lunches and snacks that will provide your children with energy and protein throughout their day.
3. Have healthy, nutritious breakfasts readily accessible for your children each morning and a few healthy meal options to take on the road, should you run out of time. Such items can include bananas, yogurt shakes, bagels, whole grain, low sugar cereals, etc.
4. Where will you store back packs? Keys? School Supplies? Inform your children that their back packs and necessary school supplies must be returned to the same spot each night so there is no frantic search occurring each morning as you are headed out the door.
Another very important daily routine that you should establish in your home should be a “homework routine.” Decide what time you will have your child begin their homework each day based on his or her individual needs (i.e. some children need to do homework right away and some work better after being afforded a snack) and schedules (i.e. after or before sports commitments). Whatever time frame you develop, try to stick with it. Provide your child a quiet, well-lit place to do their schoolwork. This homework center should be stocked with all the necessary materials your child might need (i.e. pencils, paper, rulers, etc) and should have minimal distracters (i.e., no television or younger siblings running around). For younger children, I would encourage you to consider creating a homework center that is in close physical proximity to you (i.e. kitchen table) so that you can be readily accessible should they need assistance.
You may feel that the school year has already begun and so you will just have to wait for the next school year to plan better but this is not true. It is never too late to start a good schedule or routine that your whole family will benefit from!
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her offices located in Wellington and Delray Beach. In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Dr. Zipris works part time as a licensed school psychologist for the Palm Beach County School District.
For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at (561) 558-7815.
Questions for this column should be sent to Dr. “Z” at Drlaurazip@gmail.com